To teach one of his managers the difference between good and bad sales, Norm Brodsky took him cold-calling for a day. The manager insisted he couldn't sell. Brodsky showed him that anyone could sell. All you have to do is cut your price. "But that's not a good sale," he said. "My definition of a good sale involves making money on it. When we hire salespeople, we're paying them to go out and make sales at a profit."
Brodsky, who owns CitiStorage, a business-document archival and retrieval service in Brooklyn, N.Y., insists that it's important for key managers to make sales calls a couple of days a month. "A kind of mystique develops in a company," he says. "When salespeople say that they can't sell your product at full price, that the market is demanding a steep discount or a special deal, managers don't know how to respond. They don't trust themselves. The salesperson could be right or wrong, but the people who have to decide don't have a clue."
By having managers make those decisions, a company maintains control over the profitability of a sale, but the managers can only make good decisions if they've been out in the market. There, they get to know who their customers are, why their company is different from the competition, and what changes it could make that would allow it to earn a premium. "Managers need to understand all that if they're going to play a significant role in setting company policy, but they won't learn it unless someone takes the trouble to teach them," adds Brodsky. That, of course, is where the company owner comes in.